The Post-Gazette Forum: Prof. Khan & the Oxymoron of "American Islam"
The worst piece is "American Islam," written by M. A. Muqtedar Khan, who's an Assistant Professor at the University of Delaware and a senior nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institute. He's authored American Muslims: Bridging Faith and Freedom. Professor Khan is what passes for an "Islamic scholar," a popular oxymoron.
I'd suggest to Khan that when it's necessary to "bridge" faith and freedom, there's a big problem. In fact, faith without freedom (of speech, of religion, of press) is a frightening thing. Freedom should be the essence of faith. It shouldn't be some major dilemma.
As a good Muslim dedicated mainly to the cause of spreading his religion, Khan makes many of the usual patronizing comments about America -- praising the country for its freedoms, while neglecting to note that such liberties are present nowhere in the Islamic world. He makes his main point in the lead, saying: "American foreign policy sins are numerous and some are even unforgivable [!] -- like the invasion of Iraq, which was based on false accusations and has resulted in much death and destruction."
He adds that it be wrong to judge "Islam by what some radical, violence-prone Muslims have done around the world." Yet one might ask: what are the much-discussed, but rarely evident, moderate Muslims (another oxymoron) doing to resist and overcome the omnipresent violent Muslims? They're doing little, either because they support the violence or they're afraid. "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity," as W. B. Yeats said.
The U.S. did not initiate "death and destruction in Iraq." Under Saddam and his Sunni brethren, Iraq launched two major wars in the Middle East, resulting in the death of perhaps a million Muslims in Iraq, Iran, and Kuwait. It killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shias. The number of Iranians killed in the war might have been half a million or more, with a similar number of Iraqi fatalities. After the occupation of Kuwait, Saddam attacked a village in Saudi Arabia.
He regularly used weapons of mass destruction, mainly poison gas, against the Iranians. He also bombed Kurdish villages with Mustard gas and nerve gas, killing many, many women and children. He killed people in Israel and Saudi Arabia with Scud missiles, which have WMD characteristics in that they kill indiscriminately.
For more than two decades, Saddam tried to develop nuclear weapons. Israel foiled Saddam's initial nuclear efforts by bombing his facilities. Right into the 1990s, Saddam was exploring the nuclear option. Great Britain's Butler Commission said that the report of Saddam trying to purchase yellowcake in Africa "was very well founded."
However, in the mind of a good Muslim like Professor Khan, it's the fault of the U.S. that there's death and destruction in Iraq.
I have news for him: the Muslim world has no better national friend in the world than America. It's the U.S. that has been the main protector of Muslims in the Balkans, in Kuwait, in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and elsewhere.. Our continuing purpose in Afghanistan is to free the people there from Muslim tyranny and give them the same human rights Khan has in America.
What did the "moderate Muslims" of the world do to protect the people terrorized and massacred by Saddam, the Taliban, and the various mullahs and Ayatollahs? Frankly, they did nothing. Correction: they generally intensified their efforts to blame world's problems on Israel and the West, especially the Americans.
Saddam was a vigorous supporter of Muslim terrorists, especially the Gaza-centered suicide bombers of Hamas, whom he rewarded financially. He had his own terrorist training center at Salmon Pak. He was remarkably tolerant of the Ansar al Islam, an Al Qaida-like group, with its center in northeastern Iraq. He tried on many occasions to work out cooperative deals with Al Qaida itself. (Note: I'll have an article soon exposing Saddam's deep links to terrorists, including Al Qaida.)
Frankly, the U.S. could fire at will in Iraq for a decade without doing half the damage inflicted by the Muslim leader known as Saddam Hussein. No, he wasn't the most devout of Muslims in his "real life," but his last words on the gallows were the Islamic words "Allahu Akbar," meaning God is Great.
Are the issues I've raised unknown to Professor Khan and the many Muslims who think the way he does? No, but mass murder over a period of decades by Muslims -- especially Saddam and his Sunnis -- is somehow irrelevant. When Muslims are slaughtering Muslims, it's not nearly as bad as a bunch of infidels (we Americans) trying to save lives and establish democracy.
Professor Khan's praise of America's tolerance of people like him is bizarre. In other words, this country provides him with liberties scorned by Muslim nations around the world. Christians or Jews who publicly practice their religion -- or criticize their host nations -- in Islamic countries are putting their lives at risk. They're lucky if they escape with deportation.
When you read Professor Khan's article, you'll find it's mostly a celebration of himself. He enthuses about the number of speeches he gives, the articles he publishes, the academic and other institutional positions he holds. He cites a number of other "Muslim scholars" who, like him, use the benefits of American freedoms without really comprehending how they came about.
He never gets to the real point: the systemic deficiencies of Islam and its sharia law that prevent his having Western-oriented counterparts in Muslim countries. He doesn't grasp the fact that there's an inverse relationship between the percentage of Muslims in a nation and the amount of liberty. Perhaps the reason he doesn't reflect on these matters is that doing so would cause him to call his Muslim faith into serious doubt.
Why does the Post-Gazette publish such claptrap? It does so because of its commitment to a witless "tolerance" directed toward those it would like to engage in "dialogue." Yet how does one spark real discussion among peoples and religious traditions that have zero understanding of or respect for a candid exchange of views?
If Professor Khan and others like him want to do some real good in the world, they should return to the Islamic world. They should, in essence, risk their lives by expounding the values of liberty. I doubt there's much chance they'll do so.
Unfortunately, there is no real "American Islam." Instead, there are Muslims in America, some of them good people, who unfortunately don't yet realize their Islamic beliefs are incompatible with American ideals. When they seriously ask themselves why that's so, fewer of them will continue to espouse Islam.
Stephen R. Maloney is an independent journalist (not an oxymoron). He has a Ph.D. from the University of Rochester and worked for many of America's largest countries. He is not a big fan of Islam, because of its basic incompatibility with human rights.